Walking—we do it every day. When we want to get somewhere, we walk. Sure, we may incorporate other modes of transportation into our lives, such as driving a car, riding a bike or using public transit, but we start and end every trip by walking.
COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented events that have caused many of us to stay at home full time. We are working, watching our kids, teaching, or trying to figure out what the next meal will be or where it will come from. During this time, we cannot forget about the importance of walking. We may walk to exercise, give our spouse/partner time alone or a break, or with our family to connect in a different setting. Walking is one of the simplest and easiest forms of physical activity – it’s free and requires no special equipment or athletic skill.
Yet, in 2018, nearly one quarter of Pennsylvania adults indicated participating in no physical activity in the past month, while two thirds of adults were overweight or obese. Walking is an important part of our lives and can improve our overall health. Health benefits of walking include helping to control weight, reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and enhancing mental well-being.
Why don’t we walk more?
In many locations across Pennsylvania, lack of access to areas where residents can safely walk or bicycle is cited as one of the top reasons for poor physical health. Communities and their streets were rarely designed to enable simultaneous, safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. However, streets designed for all modes of transportation, called Complete Streets, make it easier to cross the street, get to school, walk to shops, or bicycle to work and, therefore, are associated with increased physical activity. Complete Streets not only promotes good health and creates health equity, but it can also stimulate the local economy, improve road safety, reduce the amount of air pollution and improve mobility for children and older individuals.
WalkWorks – What is it?
To encourage walking and help more Pennsylvanians meet the national physical activity guidelines which call for adults to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health developed WalkWorks. WalkWorks seeks to encourage communities to support physical activity by promoting active transportation through the implementation of community-based walking routes and the development of plans or policies related to active transportation. Here are two upcoming opportunities to partner with WalkWorks:
WalkWorks affiliate program
Local community-based organizations interested in improving the health status of their communities can apply to become a WalkWorks affiliate. Joining the 97 walking routes in 23 counties across Pennsylvania, selected community-based partners:
• Identify a walking route and points of interests;
• Engage community stakeholders;
• Collaborate with community organizations; and
• Organize a kick-oﬀ celebration.
While a specific date to release the affiliate application has not yet been determined, it is expected to be released in September. To see if the application has been released, please visit the WalkWorks website.
WalkWorks funding for active transportation plans or policies
Municipalities and similar types of local government organizations interested in enhancing active transportation through plans or policies can apply for WalkWorks funding to develop plans or policies that begin to prioritize active transportation. This funding opportunity, which opens April 28, creates or enhances pedestrian and bicycle connections to common community destinations that allow people to recreate, shop, explore or socialize safely and conveniently. To view the application or apply, please visit the WalkWorks website after April 28.
Whether you are a community resident looking for opportunities to increase your physical activity or a local government official looking to improve the walkability and connectivity of your community, WalkWorks has resources, guides and funding opportunities that can help improve the overall health of your community.
Pawalkworks, WalkWorks, CompleteStreets, ActiveLiving